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Being present in Capoeira

Mestre Sorriso Professora SininhaLast weekend (Sunday 29th November) I supported Contra Mestre Sanhaco’s Capoeira Festival in Central London. Among the esteemed guests were Mestre Sorriso, from Montpelier, France and Contra Mestre Kiura, from Sweden. I had a blooming fantastic time dancing, playing music, capoeira and most importantly catching up with old friends and making new ones!

As part of the festival there was a special moment when Mestre Sorriso hosted a talk, an exchange of ideas and a chance to ask questions and tap into his vast experience and knowledge. One of the things, among many, which really struck a cord with me was a point he made about being conscious of the capoeira movements and strikes and how dangerous they can be if they are not respected.

When we start something new, we go through a process of imitation. Its how we learn, until your body recognises what you would like to do and then will start to add its own character, style and approach. Maybe through innocence and or ignorance this respect can get lost in the game of capoeira. The result? one or both of the players leave the game with an injury. This happens, a lot! small mistakes, a clashing of legs when both parties are not visually aware of their partner, digging your toes into your partners foot when you miss time a rasteira. In order to learn we must make mistakes, yes I get that.

Another result, of which I have experienced and witnessed, is the creation of fear. Not wanting to play someone as they are a little clumsy, fast or heavy footed. Fear of getting squished by someone twice the size who hasn’t quite learnt their bodies balance yet.

Mindfulness is a trending word right now, as is meditation. Those that practice these will already know of the benefits. I’m not here to convert you, its definitely something you need to search for on your own. However, Capoeira is a form of meditation, albeit an erratic one at times, you need to be in the present moment to play well, mindful of your body and your partners at all times. From the moment we step into the roda we are part of the game, nothing outside of that game exists until you step outside.

So why is Capoeira so dangerous? All of its movements, strikes, sweeps and kicks use the whole body, winding up like a spring to release a real force of nature. Its kicks are some of the strongest in the martial arts world. So we definitely shouldn’t be throwing them around willy nilly.  We can sill throw them though, I think consciously and mindfully, understanding your strength and abilities against those of your partner is a good place to start. Its not a reason to hesitate, more to give reason for each and every move you make. Being present, acting and reacting according to that moment in time. Absorbing the rhythms of the music and responding to the changes which dictate the capoeira game. I wrote a previous article Capoeira RITE, Rhythm, Intensity, Timing and expression. The more we practice these the easier it becomes to be present in our game. The more we are able to see.

11950304_596900133746241_173612868202797949_o1If a person dodges before you kick, do you still kick? Of course you can, its not very relevant to the game. It would be much better to change your position to create a different opportunity, being mindful of your partners actions and creating a reaction big or small. There is always another option, one of the beautiful things about capoeira and indeed life.

Each and every person we meet in a Capoeira roda has their own way to play, like they do walking and talking. It makes sense that each and every person we play we’ll adjust our stance and movements to fit. We know soon enough if it doesn’t fit, the energy is lost or players frustrated. When you see one of those magical games which just flows, its a beautiful experience, they are attacking, defending, joking and ultimately having fun, creating a new dialogue. They are truly present.

This all sounds pretty rosy and for the most part Capoeira is. We must respect it is a game that encourages elements of a fight, deception, play and trickery. We cannot take it for granted, we need to be present and conscious of our partner, they maybe the friendliest person in the world but today they had a bad day, they weren’t able to leave it at the door, as our Mestre Biscuim asks. You try being cheeky and they flip! Its part of the game too. Let us never take for granted our own abilities and those of others, lets not judge but encourage so that we are open to learn and grow.

Train hard, play lots and smile more.

Professora Sininha x